The Baseline Structure of the Enteric Nervous System and Its Role in Parkinson's Disease

Gianfranco Natale, Larisa Ryskalin, Gabriele Morucci, Gloria Lazzeri, Alessandro Frati, Francesco Fornai

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is provided with a peculiar nervous network, known as the enteric nervous system (ENS), which is dedicated to the fine control of digestive functions. This forms a complex network, which includes several types of neurons, as well as glial cells. Despite extensive studies, a comprehensive classification of these neurons is still lacking. The complexity of ENS is magnified by a multiple control of the central nervous system, and bidirectional communication between various central nervous areas and the gut occurs. This lends substance to the complexity of the microbiota-gut-brain axis, which represents the network governing homeostasis through nervous, endocrine, immune, and metabolic pathways. The present manuscript is dedicated to identifying various neuronal cytotypes belonging to ENS in baseline conditions. The second part of the study provides evidence on how these very same neurons are altered during Parkinson's disease. In fact, although being defined as a movement disorder, Parkinson's disease features a number of degenerative alterations, which often anticipate motor symptoms. Among these, the GI tract is often involved, and for this reason, it is important to assess its normal and pathological structure. A deeper knowledge of the ENS is expected to improve the understanding of diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson's disease.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Jul 22 2021


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